The Apollo Theater at 80

  • The Apollo Theater, seen here in 1989 on 125th Street in Harlem, New York City.
  • Performers on amateur night in front of a large crowd at the Apollo Theater in 1943.
  • People waiting in line to get into The Apollo Theater in 1960.
  • The marquee outside the Apollo Theater on 125th Street in Harlem in 1964.
  • Comedian Jackie 'Moms' Mabley (Loretta Mary Aiken) performs at the Apollo Theater on April 7, 1954.
  • The Supremes prepare for a show at the Apollo Theater in 1965.
  • The Four Tops rehearsing in the basement of the Apollo Theater in New York City in 1964.
  • Aretha Franklin performs at the Apollo Theater in New York City on June 3, 1971.
  • Tina Turner performs at Apollo Theater in 1968.
  • Miles Davis at the Apollo Theater in 1960.
  • "Godfather of Soul" James Brown performs with The Famous Flames at the Apollo Theater in 1964.
  • Dancers prepare backstage at the Apollo Theater, cirga the 1960s.
  • Stevie Wonder sings and plays electric piano as he is accompanied by three female singers from his group on the stage of the Apollo Theater on Sept. 4, 1970.
  • The Temptations perform at the Apollo Theater in 1964.
  • Children and adults dance  at the Apollo Theater in 1964.
  • Performers backstage at Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in 1987.
  • Ray Charles performs with the Philip Morris Superband at the Apollo Theater on Nov. 10, 1990.
  • Rehearsing at the Apollo Theater in 1990
  • A girl waiting backstage at the Apollo Theater in 2000.
  • Destiny's Child, with members Beyonce Knowles, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland (far right), wait backstage before performing at the Apollo Theater in 2000.
  • Rudy Bishop, the director of the Chronicle Atlantic Symphony, with performers at amateur night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, Jan. 2, 2011.
  • The body of James Brown is on display to the public at the Apollo Theater in New York, on Dec. 28, 2006.
  • Then-Sen. Barack Obama campaigns for president at the Apollo Theater in 2007.
  • Fans sing and dance to the music of Michael Jackson during a tribute to the late singer at Harlem's Apollo Theater on June 30, 2009 in New York.
  • Antonio Williams, 7, of Orlando Fla., performs the dance moves of Michael Jackson for those waiting online for the doors to open for amateur night, which is dedicated to the late singer, at the Apollo Theater in the Harlem neighborhood of New York on July 1, 2009.
  • Amateur Night Set It Off Man, Joe Gray performs during Amateur Night at The Apollo Theater on March 6, 2013 in New York City.



James Brown, Jay Z, Lauryn Hill, Ray Charles – these are just some of the names to have graced the marquee at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater, which celebrates its 80th birthday on Tuesday.

Few venues have housed as many legendary figures, from Al Green to President Obama (singing Al Green.) But then again, few have achieved a status quite as legendary in its own right.

Constructed in 1914, the Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater, as it was then known, once kept its doors closed to African-Americans. But in the eight decades since it became the Apollo, the New York landmark has grown into a cultural epicenter, not just for black entertainers and political leaders, but for the whole nation, catapulting some of the last century’s movers and shakers from obscurity, to the stage, to the annals of history.

To celebrate its anniversary, the Apollo will host some of its most famous performers, including Gladys Knight, Natalie Cole, and Smokey Robinson. Thanks to its robust education program and enduring amateur nights, though, the audience at 253 West 125th Street hasn’t seen its last act. 

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